Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More than just showing up

Woody Allen was purported to have said that “90 percent of life was showing up.” (Bartleby's says it’s 80 percent). For many business people, apparently they do little more than that. Returning phone calls, answering emails and foregoing one’s golf game in order to get real work done seem to be qualities from another time. Well, maybe not the emails, but you get my point—I think.

I’m on the lookout for a business etiquette book because I’m really growing perturbed about the inability of so many so-called business “professionals” who seem to lack any capacity for follow through—as in, answering messages that you leave on their voicemail, responding to emails, or doing anything more than merely “showing up.”

It’s never been my goal to become “successful” in the Steven R. Covey “7 Habits” kind of way. At the same time, my role as entrepreneur and now, back working a regular 9-5 gig has helped me to recognize that there are certain traits that I find helpful and even welcome when I see them on display. Having an innate capacity to move things forward and “get things done” are skills that benefit non-profit agencies and activist groups, as well as profit-driven business organizations.

One thing that I used to find maddening in all my activist work, was how often meetings, seminars and even marches, or other actions, became exercises in disorganization and worse, even chaos. Finally, I began to see how much of my time was being wasted by people more interested in their nicotine addiction than they were in changing the world. While most could rail against “the man,” I don’t know how the hell they thought they were going to beat him when they had trouble getting out of bed before noon. Laziness isn’t becoming on anyone, much less so on people that claim they have the ultimate cause.

It’s not only activists. Musicians and artistic types also seem to embrace the “slacker” vibe with vigorousness and then wonder why they can’t line up gigs, let alone get their music to the masses. Whatever your goals are for your cause, your art, or making a living, hard work and having some basic organization skills go along way to getting you beyond the 90 percenters that Woody Allen was referring to.

While this post probably makes me seem like I’ve gone over to the corporate camp, the reality is that I’m finding that the work of change and transformation requires at least the same effort as those that put profit ahead of everything else. If you want to change the world, it requires a lot more work than distributing a few poorly put together flyers, or forwarding an email to a few friends.

BTW, if anyone has recommended books on etiquette in the workplace, or what constitutes proper protocol for the office, or place of business, I’d love to hear about them.

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